A couple of weeks ago, with the world in seemingly chaos due to COVID-19, I started making Filter Pocket Face Masks for frontline, essential workers. My parents, children and husband quickly joined my efforts and we have made close to 300 and have provided hopefully at least a little protection for doctors, nurses, police officers, therapists, homeless center workers, childcare workers and countless others.
After the first 100, my mom changed up the original pattern that we were given to make it more streamlined and faster to produce. This helped a lot. Then over the last few days, I’ve tweaked the pattern into something that we can do faster and more efficiently.
I’m sharing what I have come up with here, for the simple purpose of sharing for anyone that wants to make masks. This pattern is much simpler than the one I was given when we started, so hopefully those of you out there that have a sewing machine but are scared to try, will try it out!
I’m not saying that the pattern that I have adapted will help filter any better than anything else out there. But I do know that at least the filter pocket allows for changing the filter papers for hopefully better filtration of particles. We have been using MERV 13 grade air conditioner filters, but with the new article out about the blue shop towels being even better, that would be a great alternative to the expensive air filters.
Finally, please don’t blast me with all kinds of data, expectations or instructions on how these could be better. If you know how to do a better job, DO IT. We are all in this together. We want people safe. So please, once again. Stay home if you are not an essential worker, and if you have to be out wear a mask!
I’m listening to the book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst. The book is fantastic. The narration is TERRIBLE. Take it from me and the audible reviews, DO NOT buy the audible version. Just read the thing.
(I’m not sure how to even describe listening to this book. It’s not like a “kindergarten teacher is reading this book” as one reviewer stated.. I have friends that teach kinder and I’m not going to insult them like that!! But it is grating, condescending and all things bad. Just buy the actual book or get the digital copy.)
Ok, rant over. Get the book.
Why? Because the content is relevant to just about all of us. Now if you are making strong healthy choices everyday and have overcome all your issues, you can skip this book. But the rest of us need her down to earth, right smack in the middle of problems take on life.
I’m writing this post with 16 minutes of the book left. I’m that compelled to put my thoughts on “paper.” Lysa just talked about the concept of Sustained Discipline and this was a true light bulb moment for me.
So I wanted to share and document my thoughts.
Over the last few years I have gained back a lot of the weight that I lost in 2012. Some of the weight is in the form of muscle, but most of it is fat and poor choices. At first it was just a pound here and five pounds there. But the sum total is that instead of having “just a few” pounds to lose, I now need to lose about 25 pounds to get back to my goal weight. I don’t really expect to get back to that place and to be honest, I don’t really need to be that lean. That’s not my body shape. My body is naturally curvy and to get that lean requires a diligence and a fight that isn’t good for me. I do need to lose some body fat. I want my clothes to fit right. I’m tired of the waistband of my pants rolling down when I bend over. I’m tired of having to readjust my bra all of the time because of spillage! I’m tired of struggling into clothes that “should” fit.
But I’m not going to obsess over the scale. For one thing, my scale is inconsistent. One day it will say about what I think it should say. The next day it’s eight pounds heavier. Then the day after that, it says that I lost ten pounds. My emotions around my weight are roller coaster enough, I don’t need the scale to add to that!
What I am going to do is focus on SUSTAINED DISCIPLINE. This is an area that I am great and terrible at! Over the years I have learned that I am a rock star at being disciplined when it comes to working out. I was disciplined as a child/teen with practicing piano and preparing for rehearsals or contests. You could always count on me to log the hours and do the work. In fact, I won the trophy for logging practice minutes for piano every year for YEARS! And yes, that was a real trophy…
But I’m terrible at sustained discipline when it comes to food and personal growth habits. I’ve always said I’m a great starter, not a great finisher as if that was license to give up. I’d eat great for 3 days, but day 4 would be a bust. I’d do three weeks of a bible study and then just stop. I’d get out of the routine before a routine stuck and then move on.
So instead of focusing on the goal, the end result, the pants that I want to wear without it cutting off my love handles, I’m going to focus on areas that need my sustained discipline. While I have lots of growth areas, I’m going to focus on only two for the next three months.
Drink my fruit/vegetable smoothie for breakfast and have a salad for lunch 5 days a week.
Spend a minimum of ten minutes 5 days a week doing a bible study.
By giving myself two days of grace each week, I am hoping that instead of being down on myself for “slipping up,” I can motivate myself saying that’s one of the off days.
And will I lose weight simply by doing these two things? Not necessarily, but its a fantastic start!
James Clear in his book Atomic Habits talks about stacking habits by adding one new small habit to a habit that is already routine. Since I already have the workout habit down, I’m going to look at the morning schedule and see how to change the structure of my morning a little.
If I can add even a five minute devotional time prior to workout, then that would be a smart place to start. Granted, my eyes struggle to focus at 4:40am on anything other than Emoji Blitz, but I’m hoping to start reading and working through Each Day A Gift before heading to the gym.
I’m a work in progress, we all are. I think it is so important for us to acknowledge that about ourselves. One thing I am really proud of is that I’ve started making the bed every morning. I know its a little thing that doesn’t seem to have any real significance, but it does! It makes me feel like the day is in order and that I can accomplish things.
And finally, I’m reading Beauty Begins by Chris Shook and Megan Shook Alpha. Making peace with my reflection is hard. It has always been hard and I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. But I am doing my best to not pass on the burden of unattainable and unhealthy body image issues to my daughters. I want them to be healthy and at their physical best, whatever that is and however that looks.
It was great to see that we accomplished the big idea that we set out to do in 2016 and for most part, we are still holding true to our Standard Objectives. Our Defining Objectives were accomplished for the most part with the completion of our rallying cry, so they were no longer relevant.
And with that big “to do list” checked off, I was pumped to get us updated and ready for the new year.
We decided that in 2020 we would focus on emotional and physical health. With me still recovering from hip surgery, a surgery on the horizon for one child and half a dozen new specialists for our other daughters, we needed to prioritize healing and wholeness.
I know, it seems weird that we would have to put this in writing given that all we have done over the last almost twenty years is do doctor visits, but this is different. When you live in the midst of doctors and sickness and struggles, these become normal and you just function within these very difficult parameters.
But this last year was TOUGH. Emotionally, physically, and financially. The doctor visits, physical therapy appointments, specialists, more specialists and countless hours in waiting rooms took their toll. In fact, I just looked it up, Aetna managed 115 different medical claims for our family. Add the Rheumatologist that doesn’t do insurance, the chiropractors, dentists, orthodontist, eye doctor, health screenings, tests and random health issues and we are at over 200 calendar entries for a family of 5.
Did you read that? 115 separate claims to manage plus all the other medical expenses not covered.
And we would call this a pretty healthy year. DANG.
So anyway, we talked about what we wanted our rallying cry for 2020 to be for our family and it had to be emotional and physical health. Instead of just surviving in the midst of this hard stuff, we need to be able to tackle it head on.
And we are .
Our “mission statement” is the same as when we created it years ago. We are a family that invests in each other and the community. We believe in learning, leading and living creativity everyday. We live in a small community but value our global connections. I love reading this and being reminded that we are still inherently the same family with the same mission, even in the midst of change.
But in order to focus on emotional and physical health as a family, we have to change our defining objectives. We have to be proactive in our approach to our days and our nights. We have to be willing to make some hard choices. Our defining objectives.. or the things that need to happen so that our rallying cry can be carried out are:
These objectives are doable when we remember our goal. Yes, there are times when it seems like it would be way easier to just let Kylie, at ten years old, watch YouTube Kids for hours. But the tradeoff just isn’t worth it! She is at her best when she is outside and being creative. Technology is not her friend. The reality is that technology isn’t good for any of us.
And what are standard objectives? These are the regular ongoing responsibilities that you have in addition to your goal. Our standard objectives have stayed the same over the years for the most part, but we realized that we needed to add family adventures as an ongoing responsibility, not just something to do when it is convenient. It’s never convenient, but our family needs this fun time together!
So our standard objectives are:
Doug and Emily Time
These are the guideposts that I measure all of the requests and opportunities against. I have to remind myself all the time, if the request/opportunity/commitment isn’t in line with our standard or defining objectives, then it isn’t in line with our family’s goal. And for this season, I need to say no.
And so I’m saying no, and having to go back and revisit some of my recent responses of Yes. It’s not easy, but my family’s emotional and physical health is more important.
With that, I’m telling you all.. if you haven’t read The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family, you need to. There is no kickback for me to suggest it to you. It’s just that good of a book.
I had hip surgery a little over a month ago. Not a replacement.. I’m not that old yet! But the recovery has still been slow and steady with lots and lots of time just laying down and sitting reclined.
During these very slow days, I found that I LOVE watercolor painting! I had previously watched a few tutorials by Let’s Make Art and had even purchased a few of the kits for my daughters, but I had never taken that time to play with watercolors myself. Well, since I had a lot of time on my hands, I decided to see what I could learn.
And I FELL IN LOVE. 🙂 As an art teacher, I dabble in a lot of things and know the basics of pretty much all of the medias. My knowledge is an inch deep and a mile wide as my goal is to introduce my students to as many different types and styles as possible. In the past, when asked about my favorite media, I have always said printmaking. This is where I am most comfortable and my foundation of experience is about a 1/2 mile deep. But, ask me today, and it’s watercolor. It might change tomorrow as I am truly one of those constantly learning, constantly exploring and constantly pushing back my boundaries kind of person. However, my current obsession is watercolor.
My first Let’s Make Art tutorials were chosen because of the easy outline and the free video explaining all of the steps. The iris video was so easy to follow. I made a couple as thank you cards for people that had sent meals after my surgery. That was fun to be able to give something back. I think I made 8 irises before moving on. I then tried out the cardinal.. and ended up painting probably 10 or more cardinals for friends!
And then came the trucks! Oh wow. So many people wanted the truck with the tree. I think I painted 20 of these! But what I loved was that I could take the information taught in one video and easily apply it to something totally different! For the truck, I found different trucks that I wanted to paint, so I took the instructions and adapted as I went. What was fun is that none looked the same, even when I painted the same truck over and over, each painting was just a little different!
And then it kind of snowballed. I painted eight Christmas Baby Yodas, six VW Bugs with presents and four longhorns.
A dozen flower options….
Five cat and dog paintings.
A menagerie of farm animals
And a boat.
And that’s not all! As I finished the semester with my students after spending a couple of weeks at home, I challenged them to try a new art medium and to finish work! Its hard to complain to the teacher about having to finish 10 projects over four months when the teacher has painted more than 50 paintings in a month! 🙂
And because I have enjoyed painting so much, my husband bought me the real Let’s Make Art supplies for Christmas! Previously I was using the Prang pan watercolors that I have in my classroom for art 1 students. Not the best quality paints, but are clearly not bad. However, OH MY. The Dr. Ph. Martin’s paints, the good brushes and the butcher tray palette have rocked my world! I’ve always pushed for my advanced art students to have quality supplies, but I’ve just settled for the lower priced stuff for myself. No more!
Dang, just look at the comparison of colors! The cardinal on the left is with the pan watercolors and the cardinal on the right is with the Dr. Ph. Martin’s watercolors. Same paper.
What’s up next? Well.. I painted this sea turtle for Doug with my new paints and a few friends have asked for one as well, so I guess a few sea turtles. Then I’m on to an abstract landscape and couple of commission pieces.
I’ve loved painting and have truly enjoyed gifting so many pieces of my heart to people. So, I’m going to just keep on painting and learning and playing and creating.
And how is the hip? Well, physical therapy three times a week has me walking around the house without any crutches, so I’m making progress. My goal is to go back to school on Jan 6 without crutches….
And in case anyone is wondering, nope, there is no kickback for me in sharing my new found love of Let’s Make Art! But hey, Sarah Cray, if you want to send me some paints to play with…I’m here for you. 🙂
I just got home from spending a few days at our Texas art teacher conference. It’s always a great time of learning and connecting with new and old faces.
But this year, I was more aware of an interesting element that impacts our experience and the experience of those around us.
It’s our willingness to learn.
Going to a conference with other professionals in your field makes for interesting dynamics. No matter the content area or profession, every personality is on display. Over the years, I’ve kind of figured out my role within my art teacher profession.
I’m the learner. This means that I’m willing to put my lack of natural ability and my desire to learn on display! Sure it can be unsettling in the midst of a few thousand “real artists” but I’ve decided to embrace who I am and in the process be a bridge for others like me and the new teachers who are intimidated and struggling to find their own role within the group.
This learner role was in full force on Friday morning as I sat in the front row of a session on painting. It was a really good session and the presenter was very knowledgable and easy to follow. He had prepped well and had a great handout. So I just got to work and played with the amazing paints.
I worked quietly and listened to the people behind me. One older gentleman talked loudly about his amazing work and his latest art show and asked the presenter questions designed to elicit complements and awe. Another gentleman was self depreciating. Another felt like we all needed to hear about his students.
I just listened.
Down the row from me a woman started worrying about how messy her work was.
Another was worrying about the size of her fruit.
Another was asking for the original paint as her plate was too small and she had messed up and needed to start over.
I just listened and worked. I got paint on my hands. I used a lot of paper towels. My plate was lopsided and my peach didn’t look like a peach.. but I just kept quiet and kept going.
Then a young teacher behind me made the comment that I’ve learned to listen for. She said she was embarrassed about what she made as everyone else’s looked so much better.
I turned around and held up mine for her to see with my messy hands and all of my used paper towels. I told her that I used to feel exactly like her, that my first couple of years coming I always felt like an imposter.
Then one year I realized that it didn’t matter what others were making. No one else was looking at me waiting to call me out for my less-than peach. I told her that I realized that some people actually planned what they would be making before coming to the conference! That they were so worried about looking good that they predetermined what they would create.
The woman looked a little shocked, but an older teacher down the row from me just started nodding and added in that she was embarrassed about her mess and the quality of her work.
Interestingly, the loudmouth stopped promoting himself and looked over at the young teacher’s painting and complimented her work. And with a smile and look of relief, she finished her painting.
I finished mine as well; gathered up my supplies and headed out with my simple little painting, messy hands and a smile on my face.
As a teacher, much of what I do is hidden in a classroom and is never seen by the public. For the most part, that isn’t a bad thing! Students need to be able to try and fail and learn without fear of the world judging their progress. But sometimes, it’s nice for the world to see our progress and celebrate our achievements.
One of the really big and visible projects that my students and I spend thousands of hours on each year is the UIL Theatrical Design Contest. Unlike most of the work that my students and I do on a daily basis, the theatrical design contest garners interest from parents, teachers, the community and administrators alike as it’s a pretty cool contest and has some nice hardware in the form of awards. 🙂
Over the last 8 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with the team as co-coach. The other coach, Mindy, and I are pretty awesome partners. We balance each others strengths incredibly well and are able to keep each other motivated and moving forward when the other gets downtrodden. Thankfully, we haven’t yet been ready to give up on the same day!
As more and more school districts across Texas learn about the contest and hear about the awards and points the school can earn in UIL, the competition gets tougher. As a veteran team with lots of awards, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to keep winning. And this isn’t easy! Especially when schools look to our team as the team to beat and learn from us on what to use and how to win! Eek.
But this post isn’t about the competition! This post is about the process, the system that we have created and what I have learned about coaching winners over the years. When I read (actually listened via audible) the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, all of the things that we do on a daily basis as coaches really solidified.
James Clear’s mindset is that true success and progress is created with incremental change. Working for 1% growth or improvement everyday. Clear also talks about how this 1% mindset pushes you to continually improve and refine the process. You aren’t swinging for the fences everyday. Your aren’t trying to hit a home run every time you come up to bat. You are just focusing on getting to first base every single time you come to the plate.
The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.
In 2013 when we won our first medal in Theatrical Design, Mindy and I looked at each other and said, okay… we can do this! SHS students had made it to the state meet prior to this year, but we had never been able to break into the medals. With this win, we reevaluated what we had done before and what we needed to do the next year to do better. And we did. We had two winners the next year. The next year we had 6 medalist with 2 being state champions.
And we have continued to have this level of success because we have created a solid system and continually refine what we do. After this last week, all I really wanted to do Monday was chill. But my students were already processing and thinking about next year. I talked with all of my classes and told them of the success of the last week and we celebrated our students medals. I invited students to be a part of the team and welcomed new interest.
We don’t even have the prompt for next year, but I have almost a dozen students already sketching, brainstorming and working on techniques that can help them achieve their goals for something that is truly 365 days away!
Why are they interested? Well, success breeds success, we know that. But I think some of it is that we are teaching skills that are applicable to so much more than one contest. Learning photoshop or how to draw in perspective are transferable skills that allow students to consider their world in much broader terms than previously imagined. While a student may use photoshop to create their poster for marketing, that student has also learned about graphic design and has useful job skills! While a student learns how to draw a set design in perspective, those same skills are the base skills for architecture and industrial design.
Finally, James Clear talks about simple things you can do to build better habits and one of his tenets is to NEVER MISS TWICE. I love this mindset. In the world of art and theatre where so much of what we do is subjective and difficult to judge, I’ve taken the NEVER MISS TWICE mindset to heart. I use this in my classroom with students about deadlines. I use this for my personal accountability. I use this in all aspects of life. And we use this coaching this contest.
Yesterday, I asked students to reflect on what they learned during this last year of work and what they would tell students as they began their journey for the upcoming year. Much of what they said embodies the mindset of NEVER MISS TWICE. Like, time management and research, owning design decisions and following through with these decisions.. and so much more. I’m sure that it is odd to many that I would claim the concept of NEVER MISS TWICE in the art world. But really, so many times one off day leads to a week of wasted efforts. One decision made in haste requires a truckload of more work. It is so easy to compound the problem because you aren’t willing to address the problem head on and instead of dealing with it once, you deal with it twice or three times or more!
And there you have it. My thoughts and reflections from this past week in terms of achievement and growth. If you haven’t read the book Atomic Habits, you should.
Life is busy. We all know that. It doesn’t matter where you are in life and what commitments and responsibilities you have, we fill up our lives with stuff. Lately, as my life seems to almost spiral out of control with deadlines and struggles, I’ve actually taken more time for myself than ever! Maybe it’s counterintuitive, but I’m better for it.
So what have I been doing for myself? Well, I’m listening to books and walking. It started simply. I joined a “Stepbet” Challenge and needed to get my steps in everyday. Four days a week I needed 12k steps and two days a week I needed 14k with only one off day. So I figured if I was going to be outside walking, I might as well listen to a few audible books.
So far I’ve listened to Michelle Obama’s book Becoming, a couple of Brene’ Brown’s books like Braving the Wilderness and Daring Greatly, Rachel Hollis’ book Girl, Stop Apologizing and I’m currently listening to Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Over the weeks, I completed the step challenge and have started a new one. I’ve cried as Michelle talked about her father’s physical struggles with MS. I’ve been challenged to “lean in” and be vulnerable by Brene’. I’ve been motivated by Rachel to not just dream, but actually fight to make my dreams a reality. And currently, I’m being asked to reexamine every seemingly insignificant thing I do in relation to the things I want to do by James.
It’s a little overwhelming. Even for a goal-setter, go-getter like me!
But as my mind races with possibilities, and I dream about the absolute “best me” and how I can get there, I am reminded that my journey is not only mine, but my girls journey as well.
There are so many things I wanted to be as a young girl. So many dreams and opportunities that I wanted, but didn’t see as possible. If I can change anything, I want my girls to know that they can be ANYTHING and DO ANYTHING.
So I dream. And at 44 years old, it’s harder to dream big. The crushing weight of reality does its very best to limit our dreams to what might be possible. But it doesn’t have to be.
Enter the TEN, TEN, ONE
Rachel Hollis in her book Girl, Stop Apologizing talks about dreaming and wishing and how important it is to actually put feet to our dreams if we want them to become a reality.
Hollis asks us to see ourselves as our best self in TEN years. Who is that person? What does that person do? etc..
Then you take that person that is 10 years away and write down TEN dreams that need to come true to make that person a reality.
Finally, chose ONE goal that if completed would help make the person that you want to be in 10 years a reality.
And so I’m pondering and praying. I’m contemplating and considering. I realize that since I have always wanted to be EVERYTHING, I’ve never gone all in on one thing. Creating my mental image of my best self is way harder than I thought it would be. Choosing to limit my focus makes me re-evaluate my options and path.
Who do I REALLY want to be in 10 years?
And so, as I consider this… I’m giving myself the freedom to start from scratch. I don’t really have to limit myself to traditional expectations. I don’t know that my “ideal me” will be any different than I see myself right now, but it’s an interesting thought.
Thankfully Doug is my biggest cheerleader, so I am empowered to meditate on my goals.
And in the meantime, I’m working on small habits that can be layered upon each other for big impact. James Clear’s ideas of “stacking habits” is awesome! I love that I can stack a new needed habit on top of an already ingrained positive practice. For example, my workouts are a habit. I AM an athlete. It’s part of who I am. But my breakfast choices are often really bad. So, I’m choosing to stack a new smoothie habit onto the workout habit. I’ve done this before and it worked, but I got out of the habit as I didn’t place any real significance to the practice. My daily practice of working out will now be followed by making a protein smoothie and making the bed before jumping into the shower. The difference in time is negligible, but by stacking these activities, I’m much more likely to actually create the habit. Pretty cool huh!
So I leave you with this. Change is hard, but being frustrated with your current state and not knowing how to fix/change/improve your situation is worse. Go read a book. Go for a walk. Just DO SOMETHING.
February was a busy month. I felt like all I did was run from one thing to the next, but when I look back on my goals, I didn’t do too badly given that I work full-time and have two part-time jobs plus a “side hustle” as a one act play judge along with having a family!
Hit my move goal everyday of the month.
Log 6 workouts a week.
Run 50 miles.
Lose 5 pounds.
Hit a new PR on squat.
Scrapbook October 2018.
Reorganize the laundry room.
Create one art piece.
Write a monologue.
Mail 3 letters.
What I accomplished:
I didn’t hit my move goal everyday. I consciously choose to sit one day. I was tired.
I didn’t get 6 workouts a week, but I logged at least one workout all but 5 days of the month and finished with 27 workouts for 28 days.
I ran 52 miles, including one 1/2 marathon.
I gained and lost more than 5 pounds.. what can I say, I like a good roller coaster. But my net lost is a little over 1 lb for the month. More than that, the waist of my jeans is a little looser.
I don’t know if I hit a new PR on squat, but I’m lifting heavy. I love that.
I scrapbooked over 50 pages in February!
I didn’t necessarily reorganize the laundry room in a pretty decorating way, but I cleaned it up and put things in the cabinets. Yay!
I helped students develop a new art process by creating a miniature vinyl portrait. I didn’t keep it as I was using it for teaching, but I’d give myself credit for the task.
It’s been a couple of months since I blogged. Lots of happenings, too much to catch you up on for the most part, but I do have a really awesome update to my classroom.
First, I can say that shaking hands with students is a winner. It has been an amazingly easy transition.. except that it took about 2 months to feel normal to me. 🙂 Students responded immediately and now just expect that I will shake their hands everyday. So with this element in place, I felt comfortable adding a new piece of the “Capturing Kid’s Hearts” mindset, but I tweaked it to work in a fine arts environment!
This is the ambassador piece.. but I called it my Art Ambassador program.
After I welcomed all students into class today, I explained that I needed help with a few things in and around our room. I told the classes that I felt that it was wrong that the students in a class didn’t know each other’s names and that it’s hard to feel like your are on a team when you don’t know who is on that team!
So to that end, I wanted to invite students to take leadership roles in the classroom and that each week we would welcome a new ambassador who would shake everyone’s hands and say their names. I explained that shaking hands should be a natural and comfortable thing to do not just with a teacher or adult but with their peers.
The Art Ambassador will also be in charge of leading “Good Things” three times a week to start our class day. Why? Because as much as I want to lead “Good Things” and as much as I believe in the process, life and teaching get in the way of good intentions if there is no one keeping me accountable! So with students helping to keep us going and moving, I know that we can do it!
And finally, the Art Ambassador is responsible for welcoming guests in the classroom, for explaining to new people about our classroom and offering the new person an opportunity to sign our social contract.
And here is what I learned today. Quiet students who don’t necessarily get called on, were remembered. Students that have stories to tell, but are afraid to voice them did so. Students that had moved in late, had schedules changed or were otherwise “new” were given an opportunity to get acclimated and learn names.. and they smiled.
Bottom line. Asking for Art Ambassadors allowed me to ask for help from the students. I asked for leaders. I asked for accountability. I asked for teamwork.
And I got it.
I’m not a new teacher. I know that there will be bumps in the road. Heck, it wasn’t perfect by any means today. In one class, after three students gave very superficial “good things” I said that I realized that this class doesn’t trust each other with their hearts and that we have to work on being trustworthy friends and uphold our social contract better.
But my takeaway.. a quiet foster home student’s “good thing” that she barely whispered to the class.. that she is being adopted. Yeah. Gut check. We cheered for her.
My prayer is that I remember these moments of transparency and love and team and that I hold myself accountable and ask for my Art Ambassadors to lead the way.
I’ve never been comfortable with shaking hands. I guess it’s because girls aren’t taught to shake hands. I’ve always felt awkward and except for when meeting someone new in a business setting, I just haven’t ever been one to shake hands.
The school district I work in has implemented “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” and since going to training I’m a believer in what they are doing as they attempt to transform schools into positive environments.
As part of “CKH,” I was a happy to add social contracts and give more responsibility to the class managing their own behavior. I already did lots of stuff like that, so it was in my comfort zone. But shaking hands? Not so much. I was incredibly leery and cynical at first when it came to the need to shake student’s hands every day. I had fantastic reasons for why I couldn’t do it.
But, I’m an all in or all out kind of person, so I decided to just give it a try. If I didn’t see it as a good use of my time or students started acting up in the classroom while I was standing in the hallway, I could always go back to my old ways.
So for two weeks now I have been shaking hands with students as they enter my classroom.
And here is what I have learned.
It makes a difference.
I don’t know how. I don’t know why, but it makes a difference. I’ve been a teacher for 20 years and I have great classroom management and engagement, but there is a different vibe in my room after greeting students at the door and shaking their hands.
I’ve always greeted students by name when they entered my room, but I’ve always also been doing the twenty different things that need to be done before a new group comes in, so it’s been a distracted greeting at best.
Now, for those couple of seconds, as I clasp the student’s hand and say the student’s name, I give that student my undivided attention. I look at the student’s face. I look in their eyes if they are willing to look back at me, and I smile.
Maybe because I have to smile at almost 150 students a day in a personal greeting, but I have found myself smiling and laughing more. I still get incredibly frustrated at times, but more often than not, I’m able to find the humor in the craziness of high school students.
My student’s are happier.
Last year, my middle school age daughter said that her goal for school was the same as Mia Thermopolis’ “My expectation in life is to be invisible and I’m good at it.” I wonder how many students decide the same thing, not because they truly want to be invisible, but since they already feel that way, they decide that they might as well make that their expectation.
Well, when you stop and look in a student’s eyes, smile and call the student by name.. there is no hiding.
And what I am learning is that when student’s don’t feel forgotten or hidden, they are happier and they smile more as well!
Not having those 5 minutes to go to the restroom, return the phone call or prep for class makes things more challenging, but it is worth it. I’m committed to shaking hands with students.
And who knows, one of the best benefits may not be the connection I feel with the students, it may be that my students learn that shaking hands is a normal part of social interaction, no matter the gender!